The Best Ways To Display Etiquette & Sportsmanship in Chess

Chess is a gentleman’s game, so it’s only fitting that players display a level of sportsmanship to inspire goodwill. After all, it is a game that rewards grace and elegance rather than showboating. The best chess players in the world are often the kindest and carry themselves with class and dignity. Win or lose; it’s the etiquette that gains the crowd’s respect.

Today, we’ll discuss the best ways to display sportsmanship and etiquette during chess. But first, what is chess etiquette, and why is it so important?

What Is Chess Etiquette?

In chess, there are always unspoken agreements between the two players. It mostly has to do with being on your best behavior and not acting in a way that would be considered impolite. Now, since these rules and agreements aren’t written down, what stands for proper chess etiquette can vary from player to player.

One might say that a simple handshake and a polite smile would be customary before a match. Again, this isn’t written down in the rules, so it’s not a necessity. However, say you rejected your opponent’s handshake offer; now, that would be rude and improper.

Then, there’s the age-old discussion of resigning from a game when you know you’ll lose. Most people do it so they don’t waste their opponent’s time drawing out the match. After all, if you notice that you can’t win the match, why prolong the inevitable? Your opponent would appreciate you dropping in the white flag and resigning from the game.

On the other hand, some players will refuse to capitulate to their opponents until they have been thoroughly beaten. This might be annoying for the opponent, who has to sit there and waste their time playing more moves just to confirm the win. In this case, that would not be considered good chess etiquette.

Why Etiquette And Sportsmanship In Chess Are Important

If you observe what happens during a chess game, you’ll realize that it’s mostly two people staring at the board for hours on end. Players aren’t allowed to talk to each other except to offer a resignation or draw. This is so that both players can concentrate and not be distracted by unnecessary interactions. Chess requires an intellectual environment, so it is essential to maintain one.

Hampering this environment in any way means meddling with your opponent’s concentration, which isn’t fair. After all, there’s no honor in using distractions to throw your opponent off their game. You wouldn’t want someone to cough out loud when you’re in the middle of making numerous calculations, would you?

Overall, it is necessary to maintain an environment where players can be at their best. This is especially true during tournaments when the stakes are high.

Chess games during tournaments carry a high level of stress; let’s just say that situations are always tense. Causing even a minor disturbance of common etiquette can be seen as unsportsmanlike. While most players are quite cool about it, others might flip out at the slightest breach of etiquette. So always keep your wits about, and don’t do anything to piss off your opponent.

Ways To Display Sportsmanship / Etiquette In Chess

So now that we’ve established why chess etiquette is so important, let’s talk about the different ways you can display it. Remember, some of these methods are subjective and might be taken otherwise depending on the circumstance. So don’t take this as a manual to memorize. Rather, think of it as a guide that you can refer to if the situation calls for it.

  • Start With A Polite Greeting

It’s always a good idea to start the match with a brief and polite greeting. You might smile at your opponent and introduce yourself or offer a handshake. Your opponent will most likely appreciate the gesture and return it.

As mentioned earlier, some chess games can last for ages, so you might establish a friendly relationship with the opponent you’ll be facing for hours on end. Doing so might make the game less awkward for both of you. Trust us; you’ll wish you had done so when your taking down his pieces or vice versa.

  • No Showboating, Trash-Talking, Or Intimidation

Chess is a game of intellectual superiority; the best players are often the most thoughtful. This isn’t boxing or UFC, where trash-talking your opponent before or during a match is considered typical. Appearing overconfident or snotty will stain your reputation as a chess player and might even lead to others not wanting to play with you.

On the other hand, trying to intimidate your opponent using verbal insults or displaying aggressive body language will also be considered unsportsmanlike. Simply put, offending your opponent is a big no-no in the chess world.

  • Don’t Eat During A Chess Match

Something as small as eating a bag of chips during your chess match can be offensive. Let’s face it, no matter how quietly you try to chew, there will always be some noise. That irritating crackle sound is bound to disturb your opponent, even if you didn’t mean to. Worse, people might even accuse you of deliberately disturbing your opponent. So save those chips for after the game.

As a chess player, you should know not to bring food during a game. It’s simply bizarre and immature to eat comfortably and loudly in front of your opponent while they’re trying to concentrate. Even if you’re opponent is a nice person in general, this is bound to tick them off the wrong way.

  • Don’t Be Immature

Chess is a gentleman’s game, and although it’s considered a sport, it is 100% intellect and 0% physicality. It might be ok to get pumped up if you are in a basketball game, but not here.

If you have any annoying habits like constantly tapping the table, humming a song, sighing loudly, or kicking the table, now would be the time to curb it all. On the other hand, if you see your opponent doing these things, you can politely ask him to stop or take your issue to the tournament director.

  • Don’t Wander Off During The Match

Some players are so confident in their skills that they can even walk around in between moves. While this isn’t considered very rude or impolite, it might be taken as a sign of arrogance or a lack of respect for your opponent.

If you have to move around and stretch your feet, stay within the game. Of course, you might have to go on a bathroom break but do come back without lingering.

  • Don’t Rush Your Opponent To Make A Move

If you’re impatient, then chess is probably not the game for you. Each player has the right to take as much of the allotted time as they want before making their next move. After all, it is a game filled with strategic calculations; players only make a move after they have weighed out the consequences of every action. Making these calculations can take some time, so be patient and wait for your turn.

Asking your opponent to hurry up or think faster is offensive not only to them but to the game itself. When playing chess, players hold themself to a standard of class and elegance. Maintaining this standard is a good idea, even if you are a fidgety and grumpy person in real life. Besides, you wouldn’t want anyone to rush you while you’re contemplating your strategy, either.

  • Don’t Talk, Period!

If you’re the kind of person who HAS to talk all the time, you better come wearing a mask. That’s because talking during a chess game is prohibited and considered quite annoying. We can’t stress this enough, just sit down like a good boy, keep your mouth shut, and play your moves. No asking random questions, no giving or taking advice, and no trying to make casual conversation.

This rule is quite elementary; even kids will be able to understand it. So it’s especially baffling when a full-grown adult player starts yapping on and on during a serious game. It will not get you disqualified, but you will come off as a total idiot. Moreover, you shouldn’t talk to anyone else present in the playing room either unless you’re making a request to the tournament director.

  • Don’t Argue With Your Opponent

There might be moments when you and your opponent disagree on something. It could be that he broke a rule, and you pointed it out to him, but he refused to accept his mistake. Now, you could argue with him and start debating on the spot, which will definitely affect the game, or you could simply make your case to the tournament director.

Involving the tournament director is the quickest way to resolve any disagreements during the game. If left to yourselves, neither you nor your opponent might be willing to admit a mistake, real or imagined. However, bringing the director in on the matter will provide a swift judgment and the opportunity to continue with the game.

On the other hand, the director might not take your side and rule in favor of your opponent. If that’s the case, just accept it and move on. Don’t stand there arguing that you’re right and cause a scene; it will ruin your image as a player in the long run.

  • Be Polite While Addressing The Tournament Director

If you’ve called the tournament director for some reason, always ensure you’re polite and calm while speaking to him. If you’re complaining about something your opponent has done, don’t throw a tantrum or create a stir. Present your case calmly and composedly, and respect the director’s decision even if it doesn’t go your way.

  • Don’t Trick Your Opponent

You might have the idea to gasp out loud after making a move to trick your opponent into thinking you’ve committed a blunder. This will undoubtedly embolden them and perhaps even lower their guard, allowing you to take advantage of their overconfidence. Smart eh? Not quite.

Such low tactics are frowned upon in chess and might get you in trouble. Playing chess involves tricking your opponent and drawing them into your traps; that’s a given. But there’s a difference between using legal moves and illegal ones. Making fake gasping sounds or immediately going “Oh No!” just to make your opponent believe they are winning is a big no-no.

  • You Touch, You Move!

The rules of chess state that any player who has touched a piece has to move it provided it is his/her turn. This might not necessarily be enforced while playing a casual game with your friends. However, it will definitely be counted during a professional chess tournament. So be careful not to touch any pieces you don’t plan on moving.

If you have already touched a piece, then accept your mistake and carry on with the play. Respect the rules, and play that particular piece even if it wasn’t what you planned.

  • Straighten Your Pieces The Right Way

You might find that some of your chess pieces aren’t resting completely on their allotted squares. Maybe a pawn is halfway onto another square, or a knight is taking up too much space. You will naturally want to adjust the pieces so that they rest where they should correctly.

Before making any adjustments, let your opponent know what you’re doing to avoid confusion. Don’t just rapidly start adjusting pieces here and there without prior warning; this will confuse and even annoy your opponent. Use the phrase ‘I adjust,’ and wait for your opponent to acknowledge it before making any adjustments. It’s simply the right thing to do.

  • Say ‘Check’ When You Need To

While this is not a hard rule, it is considered the polite thing to do. Your opponent needs to register the check before they make the next move, and saying ‘check’ is the best way to make them realize it. It would be quite unpleasant to find out your opponent never realized what was going on simply because you never uttered the word.

  • Offer A Draw The Right Way

If you want to offer a draw, make sure you do it correctly. Make your move first, and then simply say you offer a draw. Then, hit your clock and wait for your opponent’s response. If they accept the draw offer, extend your hand for a handshake.

  • Resign When You’re Faced With Guaranteed Defeat

Sometimes, you might see an upcoming defeat and realize that nothing you can do will save the game. In such a situation, it would be better to resign early on instead of continuing the game and prolonging the inevitable.

But of course, throwing in the towels is a personal choice; it’s not really written down in the rules that you must do so. However, being stubborn and continuing the match despite zero possibility of winning can also be considered a waste of time. On the other hand, some players might even want to continue just to see you suffer. So it really depends from situation to situation.

The official way to resign a match is to tip over your King on its side. Don’t do something dramatic like raising your hands and shouting you give up. That’s just plain immature.

  • Be Kind In Victory; As Well As In Defeat

Some chess players will throw a tantrum after suffering a humiliating loss. They might blame this or that without acknowledging that their opponent is the better player. Don’t be that guy, be a gentleman instead.

If you have been defeated in a chess match, don’t freak out; simply congratulate your opponent, and offer a handshake. This show of sportsmanship will go a long way rather than pointing fingers and making excuses.

On the other hand, if you’ve won a victory, be humble and polite. Don’t swing about like a monkey and revel in your victory. Instead, commend your opponent on his/her skill and offer a polite handshake. This kind of mutual respect goes a long way in any sport, especially chess.

  • Always Follow The Rules

Remember not to break any rules, no matter how minor or insightful they might appear to you. Having little care for the rules is a clear sign of arrogance, which people are sure to notice. On the other hand, if you happen to break a rule and only realize it later or after someone points it out, do apologize for your mistake and avoid repeating it.


Hopefully, the article was helpful in delivering the main concepts behind sportsmanship in chess. Feel free to share the article and maybe take a look at our recommended chess products. Enjoy Chess!

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